Being calm at work guarantees you more success. In a nutshell, if you can take charge of your state of mind, be more self-aware and aware of others (ie. have good emotional intelligence), you could do even more than just feel better at work each day, and wouldn’t that alone be a nice thing?
Respected US consulting firm, TalentSmart, reports that emotional intelligence (EQ) is the top predictor of success at work. EQ includes your levels of self-awareness, your ability to manage yourself (your emotions and behaviours in particular) and your awareness of others - including their emotions, behaviour and needs. In my next free webinar, I will share more of the research with you, but to give you an idea - 90% of high performers have high EQ, and people with high EQ earn on average nearly $30K more than their (lower EQ) peers. So what is the No. 1 thing that gets in the way of having high EQ and being brilliant at work? Stress.
Stress lowers your EQ
Our ability to regulate our emotions and make considered responses is a function of our prefrontal cortex – the fancy frontal lobe that distinguishes us from other mammals. Unfortunately, stress basically fries this part of the brain. Yale School of Medicine is a leader in the study of stress, and their most recent findings show that prolonged stress (that is, stress that lasts for longer than a few moments) “can reduce gray matter in critical regions of the brain that regulate emotion and important physiological functions — even in healthy individuals.” (Yale University)
What that means in our everyday experience of work is that when we are stressed we simply don’t think very well. We are less likely to make quality decisions, more likely to react irrationally, and certainly have less access to our creativity and logic – both very useful skills for dealing with pressure situations or conflict. This makes sense since the stress response is in fact for survival purposes – to help us fight, fly or freeze – it is not a thinking state.
Marvin Oka and Grant Soosalu, authors of the ground breaking book mBraining, explain how our internal state impacts our ability at work and particularly in leadership. They relate it to the nervous system, which runs our stress response (more on this in my next webinar too). “For instance, if the leader’s autonomic nervous system is functioning in an overly sympathetic (e.g. stressed) state, their perceptions and decision-making will typically default to their reactive conditioning… When in an optimum state of autonomic balance, however, we have found that leaders are able to bring a higher order of consciousness to their decision-making.” (Neuroscience and the Three Brains of Leadership Abstract by Marvin Oka and Grant Soosalu.)
Yale also reports that ongoing stress can make it more difficult to deal with future stress – a very good reason to get your stress responses under control as soon as possible. I can honestly say that I wish I had done that myself much sooner than I did back when I was sorting out my own stress responses! “The accumulation of stressful life events may make it more challenging for [these individuals] to deal with future stress, particularly if the next demanding event requires effortful control, emotion regulation, or integrated social processing to overcome it,” said Emily Ansell, assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study.
As I keep saying, we need to lower our tolerance to stress and start looking after ourselves, from the head down!
Building EQ and Resilience
Getting in charge of your stress responses and developing EQ is a bit chicken-and-egg. As you develop more self-awareness and resilience, your stress levels come down. As your stress levels come down, it is easier to think straight and take a new approach to situations, and we become more resilient. The art is in knowing what skills will make the biggest difference, and how to implement them.
If you want to wrap your head around some of the skills and strategies that can help you do more calm and brilliance at work, sign up for my next free webinar –
Free Webinar: Six Strategies for Calm and Brilliance at Work
6.00pm - 7.00pm Thursday 3 April
Find out more or Register Now
(if you can’t make this date, register and we’ll send you the recording)
What else can you do?
If you feel really stuck in stress patterns you’re having a hard time breaking out of, get in touch and talk to me about coaching. You may be surprised at how quickly you can shift patterns – often a couple of sessions make a huge difference for people.
If you’re looking for ways to help your team develop more resilience and brilliance at work, I’d be happy to talk with you about the seminars and programmes I run for organisations. You can also find more info here.
And what can do you do right now?
Your body is a precision design of self-healing and superior performance. There’s a lot we can do to simply not make it hard on our body to be at its best – physically, emotionally and mentally. Here are some tips you can put into action right away.
What people at peak performance DON’T do
Whether we are talking about a top professional athlete or a leader in business, here are some of the things DON’T do to perform at their best:
They don’t drink a lot of coffee
They know better. Coffee is a bit like stress, in that we have normalised it in our society. It is part of our culture and of course, the occasional quality coffee can taste like heaven to some. For many however, coffee is reached for when they are trying to wake themselves up in the morning or are tired or stressed. According to respected health mentor, Jason Shon Bennett, this is the “very worst time you can intake caffeine as it removes nor-adrenaline. Nor-adrenaline plays a critical role in your [good] moods, your memory and your behaviour. Caffeine also wipes out your B vitamin, zinc and iron stores (which help you deal with stress) and lowers thyroxine levels. Then you get even more stressed and stress itself also depletes the body’s reserves of nor-adrenaline; a triple destructive whammy. So then you are tired and stressed with a B-vitamin and mineral deficiency. When this happens your adrenal glands are called upon to produce quick energy.” Hence the stress cycle perpetuates.
I say – make it a treat, keep it to max of two a day if you’re really in to it. Find other nice alternatives.
Enough said? :)
They don’t skip breakfast or starve their body
Yes, if you skip breakfast or lunch you are essentially starving your body and your brain. Your brain uses at least 40% of the food you eat, so food will help you be more intelligent! Food balances your blood sugar levels, which when low can make us feel foggy at best, if not a complete space cadet!
They don’t live on sugar
It doesn’t fuel the body. Don’t be fooled! Sugar craving often happens when our blood-sugar levels get low – because we’ve burned available energy through a busy morning for example or because we’ve not eaten enough. Protein in each meal helps avoid this – it keeps your bloody sugar levels even. Having a sugar snack will simply spike your blood-sugar levels temporarily before they plunge again. If you need a snack, have a handful of almonds, cheese and tomato on crackers, hummus on toast – some decent protein that will keep you going.
They don’t dehydrate their body
As well as your body, your brain also needs water in order to function. If you are drinking less than 2-3 litres a day you probably aren’t getting enough hydration to be firing on all cylinders at work.
They don’t go to bed late all the time
In bed by 10pm on average is the way to go. Even if you’re asleep by 11pm you’ll be doing well, and getting more parasympathetic sleep – the sleep that heals the body and leaves you feeling rejuvenated.
They don’t self-medicate (with alcohol, drugs or food) to feel better
They have the skills and strategies to deal with pressure situations, stay calmer and wind down more easily. A number of clients I’ve worked with recently have noticed how they’re now drinking a lot less or not at all. And in every case I can think of, it wasn’t the drinking we were working on changing, it was changing their stress responses and old patterns
Upcoming FREE Webinar
Six Strategies for Calm and Brilliance at Work
This webinar is designed to help you:
- Understand better how to manage your state of mind
- Take charge of your emotional state
- Understand how your language affects your resilience
- Make small practical changes that will change how you experience your day
- Start lifting your game at work – and in life.
6.00pm - 7.00pm Thursday 3 April
WHAT IS A WEBINAR?
A webinar is an online training or presentation. It’s very easy to take part – all you need is a computer with sound and an internet connection. If you can watch YouTube clips then you can take part in a webinar. (You can also dial into a local number from your phone and just listen). Once you register you’ll receive a link, you click on it to be taken to the webinar start screen. Easy!
Plus, if you can’t make the live session, as long as you’re registered you can access the recording later.
Thanks for reading and being part of this community.